by Simon Jones
There is a point in every season where managers disregard their pre-season rankings and start to take more notice of the current year. After a month or so, we see an interesting conflict of managers where one still values players based closer to the draft rankings, and the other is swayed by the last 30 or so days’ worth of stats.
It came as no real surprise when a trade came through in one of my leagues this week which illustrated this point to the extreme:
Team A gives Corey Hart and Yovani Gallardo
Team B gives Edwin Encarnacion and Henderson Alvarez
At first glance, this seems horribly one-sided in favour of the Hart/Gallardo side. I had both in my pre-season Top 100. Hart has pretty much followed up on his 2011 with 6 HR and an OPS approaching 1.000. I’ve felt that Hart has been seriously undervalued in leagues for at least 18 months now. However Gallardo has been wildly inconsistent, 3 great starts and 2 appalling ones, meaning that his ERA stands at 5.79 with just one win.
Alvarez has pitched well, but I’d be concerned that he only has 9 Ks on the year and pitches in the AL East. The wild card in the mix is Encarnacion. I only had him ranked about 200 pre-season. His stats in the 2nd half of 2011 showed some signs of break out, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted this. After a month he is one of the Top 5 fantasy players. Personally I’m not convinced that he keeps close to this pace up, but it reminds me of 2010 when no-one really believed Bautista could maintain his amazing form. It could be possible that Encarnacion follows suit – team A obviously believes that.
It makes me wonder about other hitters who are exceeding pre-season expectations.
I always thought that Aviles could become a serviceable option, just for receiving regular playing time in the loaded Red Sox line up. However, who could have imagined that he would have 5 homers (only trailing Ortiz amongst Red Sox players), 19 runs scored (leading the team) and 19 RBIs (second again to Ortiz). The home/road splits are pretty extreme and he seems to have adapted really well to Fenway Park (as exhibited towards the end of last season). The BABIP seems pretty sustainable, but I doubt that he maintains anything like this power. The truth, though, is that he doesn’t need to maintain close to this level to be a decent mixed SS or MI.
The perception of Molina seems to have been that he is a defense-first catcher and that has lead him to go under the radar somewhat. Last year Molina ranked amongst the Top 5 catchers, ahead of the likes of Carlos Santana and Brian McCann. He has continued in that rich vein of form through April and managed to contribute across all five hitting categories. It seems that Molina has matured into a wonderful all-round catcher and as he’s reached his late 20s, his hitting has caught up with the rest of his game. I’m totally bought into Molina to repeat his Top 5 value, and maybe more. If you can find an owner who only rates him as a Top 10 catcher, then I’d pull the trigger every time.
There was an interesting article on Jeter here the other day. Jeter seems to split opinion. His very name inspires some managers to over pay, and other’s to dismiss him as overrated despite any evidence to the contrary. I don’t believe for a second that Jeter is the player he once was, and certainly not to his 1999 self. However, I feel far too many people write him off too easily and whilst I foresee some regression from his super-hot start, I can certainly believe that there is a .300+ average ongoing and useful supporting stats from the other categories. With a thin SS position, he doesn’t need to produce these numbers to still be a good mixed league option. I believe he might still be undervalued, but unfortunately anyone who owns Jeter at this point is not likely to be one of the serious doubters.
Now is undoubtedly one of the best times to get a deal done, as managers’ opinions start to change. It remains to be seen if the move for Encarnacion is a stroke of genius or a giant overpay based on amazing April stats.
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